HomeBlocksFront-GridMandarin Immersion Program Is Ready to Launch at Carver

Mandarin Immersion Program Is Ready to Launch at Carver

By Eliza Partika
San Marino Tribune

It’s the moment the spark enters a student’s eyes that drives Christina Lin’s passion for teaching language.
Lin, a dual language teacher at Carver Elementary School, brings her years as an ELA teacher and her experience starting dual language immersion programs in Taiwan to the district’s new Mandarin immersion program. She’s had children come to school crying in their first days, only to see them translating for other students by the end of the program.
“I get to see that little plant sprout,” Lin said.
Now, as the Mandarin immersion program teacher for Carver, she can’t wait to see the students master Mandarin language and culture.
“Their eyes will be open to a different world. Even if kids were born here and they are Asian, they might not know their language. They might not know their culture, and for those who aren’t [born here], they are learning a different culture than they grew up in,” she said.
“We’re looking forward to fostering the gift of biliteracy and bilingualism in our students,” said Lena Richter, assistant superintendent of educational services at SMUSD, during the online parent information night on Feb. 24.
Parents, teachers and community members have been widely informed of the language program’s existence since its inception. School district administrators and teachers gave input and feedback about the program beginning in 2021, after a districtwide survey revealed a strong preference for a Mandarin dual immersion program.
In 2022, a second survey taken by the community was used to develop Carver Elementary’s program. A committee consisting of teachers from across the district worked for another year to develop more detailed lesson plans.
Richter directed the committee and helped devise the dual language program using the latest research on language development, alongside Carver Principal Stuart Caldwell and teachers like Lin.
The program will begin in kindergarten, focusing on teaching content standards in both English and Mandarin, providing students with cultural and language enrichment. Traditional characters will be introduced first and simplified characters will be introduced by grade 4. Students will be in a fully Mandarin-speaking classroom for half the day, and learning English the other half of the day, and will move with their classmates as a cohort each year, allowing peers to progress and learn from each other.
“They will have lifelong friendships with this group, because they will be together for their whole school life,” Lin said.
It is Richter and Caldwell’s hope that students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Chinese culture and Mandarin, both inside and outside the classroom. A partnership with the Chinese School of San Marino will allow students to take optional Saturday classes, and Pasadena City College is working with teachers to integrate lessons from their college level Mandarin classes.
Research points to many benefits for children who are fluent in more than one language, district officials said, including better multitasking and executive functioning skills, increased empathy and social skills, and an ability to interpret the world according to whatever language you are speaking.
“The world can be a competitive and scary place, and the more we break down the barriers to communication, the more we create a harmonious place for kids. … The research is solid on what it means for brain science with the kids that the more that they learn a language at a young age, the more able they are to learn other languages.”
In addition, “When you can communicate with people, then you have less conflict,” Caldwell said.
“Our kids become more competitive in the global economy. They become richer in their knowledge of what the world is like and what the opportunities are like out there. All those things, I think, are what make our parents hungry for it,” he added.
The Mandarin class will consist of half native Mandarin speakers and half non-native speakers, determined by testing, which is scheduled in April. The Foreign Language Oral Skills Evaluation Matrix program (FLOSEM), was designed by the U.S. Department of Education in 1999 to provide a global rating of a foreign language learner’s ability to comprehend, speak and be understood by others. The standard is meant to ensure students are placed into the proper language level to optimize learning.
Richter said the program will give students an additional edge with college admissions and in today’s job market, where many remote jobs are with companies based overseas. She said having bilingual, biliterate and bicultural competence is more important than being competitive academically.
“It’s about social awareness and social competency, the ability to be empathetic and understand others [who] are different from them, building an inclusive environment and inclusivity in the school and the workplace, and then also the ability to be biliterate — not only to be fluent in a language, but to be able to communicate,” said Richter.
“With dual immersion, we’re not just learning a language, we’re using a language to learn, so you’ll see that the kids start to think and imagine in both languages,” Lin said.
The Mandarin Dual Language Immersion Interest Survey, which interested parents must complete for registration, will be open on the district’s website through March 24, along with registration forms and important deadlines.


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